As We Go To The Polls

The 2015 elections are virtually creeping in on us. Yes, we are aware of its coming and it is an event fixed for every four years by our constitution. However, we are only hearing the noise of the aspirants and would be candidates charging to battle without the equivalent noise on what they intend to do with power if elected. Power seems to be an aphrodisiac sought for its sake and nothing more. Beyond the sweeping generalisations, the power players are offering little or no insights and details of what they intend to do with power. Even the opposition that we expect to tell us the difference between their position and that of the incumbent seems not sufficiently organised to understand that ideas rule the world and that an election should strict sensu be a contestation of ideas and strategies for organising society.

Our penchant for last-minute action has confirmed that it is only the ruling party that has a presidential candidate since the incumbent president from the Peoples Democratic Party, Goodluck Jonathan, has been adopted by consensus by his party. The implication is that primaries will simply confirm the status quo as there will be no contest. Already, the PDP has started its campaigns with the rallies going on across the country under various names especially, the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria. The rallies have traversed the nooks and crannies of Nigeria reaffirming the party’s position under the Transformation Agenda of Jonathan by showcasing its successes and what it intends to do if it wins the 2015 elections. Essentially, even if Nigerians think that the results are not commensurate with available resources, the party is talking of continuing what it has been doing and at the same pace in the next four years. However, since the candidate was absent in most of the rallies and the general promises were not backed by specifics, there is still more work to be done to convince Nigerians on what he intends to do in the next four years.

On the other hand, the major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, is still trying to amend its constitution before embarking on primaries to produce its presidential and other candidates. It is behaving like the world (with Nigeria as a very small fraction of the world) is waiting for it to simply declare and pick the crown(s). The pertinent question is; What time is left for a presidential opposition candidate to sell his ideas to the nation? Just about three months. This does not in any way show seriousness of purpose on the part of the opposition and it may be priming the party for failure at the polls. An African adage insists that a declared war does not consume a cripple or a person with one leg since he has advance notice of the war and enough time to move at his snail speed to safety. He will be a victim if he insists on staying against reasonable advice. Thus, if the period of the polls was already known four years ago, why is the opposition not prepared?

Nigerians should seek to find a differentiation in policy positions, ideas and ideals between the contending parties. What would they do differently in education, health, housing, the oil industry, power, etc to warrant retaining our trust for the next four years? Sweeping generalisations or promises to fight corruption, increase megawatts of electricity, and generate millions of jobs, build new roads will not fly without the corresponding feasible details of how that will be achieved. In the past, every candidate had made such promises without a faint idea of how the promises will be implemented. The idea was to simply get power first and fumble and wobble through the problems later. This is not the way of a democracy and politics of development. By now, the candidates, parties and aspirants would have published their position in hard copy and uploaded the same on websites, blogs and other electronic and digital portals. They should have hired young men and women to be communicating the same to Nigerians through Twitter, Facebook and other digital means. A groundswell of discussion on the feasibility of the proposals on radio, television and the print media would have ensued.

A new party set to claim power or an old party angling to retain power must show its refreshing qualities, not relying on old discredited strategies that will entail vote rigging, vote buying or reliance on primordial sentiments of ethnicity and religion as mobilisation tools. The party should be able to reach out to the young and disenchanted voters who do not see any stake in the political system. The young who have no jobs after schooling, the poor living in abject conditions where misery and destitution define their daily existence need to see a ray of light, a new hope of a new dawn from a party and candidates who really care. It should convince them of the need to get out and vote for the party. Indeed, such a party should be building a movement, a street army of enthusiasts ready and willing to use the democratic process to entrench the party’s ideals.

Many Nigerians had thought that the APC would seek to make a difference in its approach after the merger of the legacy parties. It would have gone ahead to build a grassroots movement and pave the way for an all embracing democratic culture. Rather, we saw the rush to have persons already elected on the platform of other parties being wooed to defect to its fold. Its promoters ignored the common people who have the vote. It was the mindset of the line-up where one man should determine the fate of others. That was exactly a tactical blunder. The APC sought to play the game according to the rules of the incumbent. In a game of enticement, it is the party with the greater resources and largesse to disburse that can entice more persons into its fold. As things stand today, the party in power that manages the daily crude oil sales and holds the levers of power will be in the best position to entice more individuals to defect. So, after the initial wave of defections, the PDP turned the table and has effectively reclaimed lost ground and moved ahead.

It is still not too late for the parties to come down from their high horse and engage the people on what exactly they want to do. Even if it appears late for the 2015 elections, there are many more elections to come beyond 2015. The parties should find every available opportunity to tell us what they intend to deliver. The civil society should consciously interrogate the positions, not from a partisan perspective but in the overall national interest. We do not need to wait until a few weeks to the elections to start organising debates when the positions should have long been out for all to read and digest.

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